Without a doubt, most of us would benefit from an improvement in our health and fitness, regardless of how active we currently are.
It’s safe to say that the best way to get in better shape while leading a healthier lifestyle is to begin a programmed exercise plan, while eating in ways that will result in a few less pounds.
However, this isn’t always plausible. Most of us lead very busy lives with family, work and even leisure. Not to mention, if you don’t already have the habit of exercising on most days, it may be quite hard to find ways to fit workouts into your busy schedule.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take with minimal impact on your time and schedule that may lead to an improvement of both your fitness and, of course, overall health.
In this article, I’m going to touch on a few ways that you can immediately begin to improve both your health and fitness with fairly minimal effort.
Monitor Your Food Intake
If you’re like most of us, you likely find that it’s much easier to overeat than it is to under eat. Unfortunately, if not corrected with exercise, this overconsumption of calories could eventually lead to a steady weight gain and, over a period of time, to a myriad of other negative health-related side effects.
Even if you aren’t keen on beginning an actual dieting plan, simply monitoring the food you’re eating in a conscious manner could lead to weight loss and even improvement of negative health issues.
The issue with eating healthily is that most of us are quite bad at estimating our food intake. For example, I’ve had many clients believe they are consuming 1400 calories per day but, once we find their maintenance, determine they actually typically consume over 2000.
The simple act of eating consciously, while monitoring the amount of food you’re eating, could make a much greater difference to your health than you believe.
Additionally, studies have indicated that just slight reductions of body weight can result in improvements with regards to issues like hypertension, total cholesterol and even glycemic control (1).
If you aren’t willing to start on a full diet, consider eating in a more mindful manner while controlling your food intake.
NEAT, otherwise known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis is a catchall term for activities that result in calorie burning, but aren’t strictly considered as exercise.
For example, the calories you burn from running on the treadmill would be considered exercise activity, while walking from your car to your place of occupation would not, despite the fact that both of these activities do in fact burn calories.
NEAT is interesting since many people disregard the amount of calories it uses, or simply don’t realize that it is not actually necessary to strictly “exercise” to burn calories. In fact many of these activities can culminate in more calories being burned than during actual exercise.
Consider for a moment that most of your day is spent not actually exercising. All of this extra time also contains activity that burns calories. You just need to know how to optimize this process.
Interestingly, most things in life do actually require NEAT. Even chewing gum, for example, requires at least some energy consumption. However, using more demanding activities will provide greater benefit.
Things like taking the stairs, or walking the dog, or parking far from your office building all have varying amounts of calorie requirements, which may improve health and even lead to weight loss (2).
I suggest finding ways to make normal activities a bit more intensive to increase activity levels and thus, calorie burn.
Take Your Fish Oil
Chances are that you’ve been told to take fish oil for heart health. Fortunately, this is one of the better health suggestions, which permeates throughout the fitness realm.
Fish oil is important because it provides two specific Omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA. These fatty acids then work together to improve brain and heart health and even to combat inflammation (3, 4, 5, 6).
One of the major issues with our typical diet is a high ingestion of Omega-6 fatty acids, which are often considered to be pro-inflammatory. By taking Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, you can potentially offset this inflammation, improving health.
I suggest taking around 3-5 grams of fish oil daily to ensure adequate consumption. However, take care not to consume fish oil along side food to avoid unpleasant fish oil burps.
Avoid Blue Light Exposure At Night
Having a good night’s rest is a major player in positive health. In fact, some studies even link poor sleep habits to development of disease and obesity. However, most people don’t realize that they may be inadvertently ruining their sleep because of the small computer most of us have in our pockets.
Melatonin is one of the major drivers of our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. As the day goes on, our pineal gland releases the hormone known as melatonin, which then eventually allows us to fall asleep and wake, according to our normal schedule.
Unfortunately light, specifically from the blue spectrum, directly inhibits the release of melatonin, which could have serious implications for health.
Interestingly, our bodies over millennia of evolution have evolved to be sensitive to blue light. We are thus sensitive to this light because blue light is the primary spectrum given off by the sun. Essentially, this mechanism is meant to keep us awake, foraging for survival during daylight hours (7).
Unfortunately, the blue light from phones, computer, tablets and television, also give off this light, potentially creating sleep issues.
Because of this, I suggest doing one or a combination of three things:
- Avoid light exposure an hour before bed.
While this method is easier said than done, it’s the most optimal. By avoiding light from devices up to an hour before bed, it becomes much more likely that you won’t have disrupted sleep.
- Get blue blocker glasses or use apps like twilight.
Getting blue blocker glasses is a cheap way to ensure that no blue light is touching receptors in your eyes. Alternatively or additionally, consider using an application such as f.lux or twilight for your mobile devices to artificially filter blue light from devices. Keep in mind though this will only work for mobile devices.
- Supplement with melatonin.
Lastly, you can also consider supplementing with melatonin. Studies have indicated that even with light exposure, supplementing with melatonin can increase levels in the blood, allowing for increased effectiveness (8).
Start small with 1 mg at the same time every night and increase dosage as needed.
4 Ways To Immediately Improve Health & Fitness
Starting an exercise and diet plan is the best way to become healthier and to attain a better level of fitness but is, unfortunately, not always the most plausible. We all lead busy lives and fitting specific exercise sessions into our schedules can often feel cumbersome and sometimes downright impossible.
Luckily, these 4 tips should at least put you on the right track to being healthier, with very minimal effort. From here you can consider adding in diet and exercise as you see fit.
- Goldstein, D. J. (1992). Beneficial health effects of modest weight loss. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders: journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 16(6), 397-415.
- Levine, J. A. (2003). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62(3), 667-679.
- Cleland, L. G., James, M. J., & Proudman, S. M. (2005). Fish oil: what the prescriber needs to know. Arthritis research & therapy, 8(1), 202.
- Ciubotaru, I., Lee, Y. S., & Wander, R. C. (2003). Dietary fish oil decreases C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and triacylglycerol to HDL-cholesterol ratio in postmenopausal women on HRT. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 14(9), 513-521.
- Rizza, S., Tesauro, M., Cardillo, C., Galli, A., Iantorno, M., Gigli, F., … & Lauro, D. (2009). Fish oil supplementation improves endothelial function in normoglycemic offspring of patients with type 2 diabetes. Atherosclerosis, 206(2), 569-574.
- Storlien, L. H., Kraegen, E. W., Chisholm, D. J., Ford, G. L., Bruce, D. G., & Pascoe, W. S. (1987). Fish oil prevents insulin resistance induced by high-fat feeding in rats. Science, 237, 885-889.
- Roenneberg, T., Kumar, C. J., & Merrow, M. (2007). The human circadian clock entrains to sun time. Current Biology, 17(2), R44-R45.